Rwanda Day, London 2013
Late Engineer George Coles must be turning in his place of repose, as we speak. Among his wildest imaginations, he never thought that his creation would give its soul to Rwanda. Yet that’s exactly what happened last Saturday 18th May, 2013.
It’s said that wherever a group of Rwandans are, that’s their Rwanda. To the extent that, in the old days, the greetings to a Rwandan from outside used to be: “How is the Rwanda of where you are coming from?” Last Saturday, the Troxy, Coles’ creation in the East End borough of Tower Hamlet, London, was Rwanda. The Rwanda of the European Diaspora had laid claim to it.
It was Rwanda Day, an event unique to Rwanda that has become a fixture on its yearly calendar. As it was for the North American Diaspora last year, so this year was it for the European Diaspora. And as happens on any continent, every single Rwandan poured out of every country to converge on a single city and commune with leaders from their original Rwanda.
Unfortunately, short of taking over the whole city, Rwandans could not get a single venue with the capacity to accommodate them all. Thus, the support beams of the 3,520-seat Troxy were severely tested and many ‘Diasporans’ had to contend with listening in from the outside. As things went, the yearning for personal comfort could not compete with the yearning for the message from home and the ‘Rwanda outside the Troxy’ happily bore the brunt of the London winds as it listened to the message.
As usual, everything was laid bare to these Diaspora dwellers. After the ministry- and department-heads had given accounts of developments in all fields of the country so far, the thunderous applause that broke out even before President Kagame rose demonstrated exactly what message the crowd was ready to freeze, waiting for!
Coming on the heels of prolonged standing ovations at Said Business School, Oxford University, these applauses seemed determined not to be outdone. But when the crux of Kagame’s message came, the cheerers must’ve realized they didn’t need much prompting from the Oxford ovations.
The message was Agaciro, so cherished by Rwandans as to acquire a capital “A”. The message: wherever Rwandans are, they must assert their self-worth; their dignity must be recognised. They must know that when they show self respect, they’ll be respected. That what they have can only be theirs if they have worked for it, themselves.
No one else can give you respect, sustenance, shelter, nay, none but you can give you your life. All should know that even if there is anybody giving them assistance, it should be that they grow out of needing it from anybody; that they acquire full self-sustenance. There is no dignity in dependency. No self-worth can be given on a begging bowl.
It’s the height of folly to think that you can depend on suckling your mother’s breast till old age. Development partners must be exactly that – partners, not aid donors. Rwandans must shed the dependence syndrome that afflicts many an African country: thinking that they’ll depend on aid for ever. Such a mentality is a fool’s paradise; sooner than later, the truth will come crushing down on them and push them under. There is no alternative to weaning oneself off aid.
The paradox of Africans, of course, is that donors will beg them to continue suckling. However, that should be enough evidence that aid is a poisoned chalice.
Rwandans knew it when they coined the adage: ukunda umwana kurusha nyina aba ashaka kumurya (literally: who shows more love to a child than its mother, wants to eat it). Otherwise said, if you wish to be independent and someone urges you to continue depending on them, it’s reason to smell a rat. They wish to be able to continue manipulating you; twisting you around their finger.
When Kagame wound up his address, I thought I heard the 80-year-old Troxy creak.
And the applause was not solely from Rwandans. During the Q-n-A following the address, the British, soared up by a number of Americans, Asians and Africans (Egyptians, Malians, Guineans, etc.) made the bulk of those who had questions. Which areas are best to invest in? What’s Rwanda’s governance method? How is Kagame leading Rwandans in maintaining their peace, reconciliation, unity? All questions were answered to everyone’s satisfaction.
And now it was time to lead the British down memory lane; give them the voice of their 17th century monarch, King James himself! And did they love it when he belted out the popular “Biracyaza”!
While the British were getting a taste of King James, I thought I’d go look for “him”. No, not the estranged Doctor R; no dough for air ticket, I guess. I was looking for that sworn Kagame hater. Knowing that he can’t pick Rwanda out on the world map, and that he knows nil about Kagame, Birrel’d have used this chance to get to see the object of his hatred, surely.
Looks like I thought wrong. Birrel uses Kagame’s name as a popular topic in the UK in an effort to uplift his increasingly unimpressive profile. At least give it to the old geezer! This little he knows; Kagame’s name has come to the rescue of many a distressed soul.
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